Sunday, July 3

The bureaucracy of the Government of Castilla y León paralyzes the exhumations of 160 victims of Francoism in Valladolid

The Association for the Recovery of the Historical Memory of Valladolid (ARMHVa) has decided to stop the exhumations it had planned in the Carmen cemetery, where they believe there are at least the remains of 160 people who were executed after summary trials between December 1936 and June 1938. However, they also suspect that there may actually be more unidentified remains, because some remains do not show signs of violence compatible with a shooting.

The cause is the lack of authorizations by the Government of Castilla y León. The Technical Council of the Memory led by the Junta de Castilla y León (PP-Vox) has not responded to their requests and the Government funds to carry them out do not arrive. The remains remain uncovered with a geotextile canvas on top to protect them.

“We have the remains of 40 people prepared to take them out and put them in a box. We would get them out in four days, but we can’t,” laments the president of the ARMHVa, Julio del Olmo. This is the second time that victims have been exhumed in the old cemetery of Valladolid. If the remains of victims of extrajudicial executions were found in the 2016 and 2017 works, in this case there is judicial documentation that will facilitate the identification of the remains of people such as the Biscay Civil Guard.

Now it is the turn of graves five, six and seven, three burial places in a space 19 meters long by 2.40 meters wide. According to del Olmo, the types of burials are different: the first time, the graves were opened for a few days, the bodies were dumped and closed. But on this occasion they opened the graves, threw out those who had been shot and put a layer of earth or lime, in such a way that the victims are buried on different levels.

Requests for the location and exhumation of victims of the civil war and the dictatorship must go through the Technical Council of the Historical Memory of Castilla y León, which has a month to issue a mandatory and binding report. The memorial association began prospecting work in March, a few meters from the pantheon that honors more than 2,500 victims of the civil war and Francoism and that houses the remains of more than two hundred people buried in the Carmen cemetery and in Medina del Countryside. A month and a half ago he requested permission to remove the remains, but there is still no response from the Junta de Castilla y León.

The Technical Council of Historical Memory it has not met since March 1, and its last published minutes correspond to October 2021. This Council is integrated into the Ministry of the Presidency and in the hands of the Popular Party, which will keep the Historical Memory. However, the regional president has agreed with his government partner —Vox— to annul the Historical Memory Decree (approved in 2018) and prepare a Law of Concord.

The Ministry recognizes a certain paralysis in the Technical Council due to the changes that have occurred after the elections: the Historical Memory was in the now defunct Ministry of Transparency, led by former Vice President (Cs) Francisco Igea. However, it is expected that the next meeting will be “in the next few days, perhaps in the next week” so that there is the “maximum number” of files. The Ministry of the Presidency also assures that it will not be known “until then” what requests will be processed, although they guarantee that they will report on it after the meeting.

The Valladolid memorial association has decided to paralyze the exhumations while waiting for the regional government to distribute the government funds. The Government of Spain committed 243,902 euros at the end of March to carry out exhumation work and other activities in the graves with victims in Castilla y León, but that money has not yet reached the associations. “If we had had the permission, with volunteers we would have shot, but like this…”, laments Del Olmo.

Requests from Ponferrada and Soria

As this newspaper has been able to verify, that of Valladolid is not the only request that is pending from the Technical Council. The Sputnik Labrego Scientific Association (ASL) and the Ponferrada City Council want to carry out a survey in the Fuentes Nuevas cemetery, a district of Ponferrada. The victims would be forced disappearances between August and September 1939, although they assume that there are remains of more people, explains the ASL spokesman, Alejandro Rodríguez. The burial would be in a space, previously outside the walls, on the margins of the cemetery. Rodríguez specifies that they registered his request on May 16 and they still do not know anything, but they hope that it will be approved in time. He also rejects that there is “no sign of a stoppage.”

This week the Soriana Memory and Dignity Association (ASRD) has registered two other petitions: one in Adradas and another in the Las Casas cemetery (Soria capital). The granddaughter of Juan García Gutiérrez, a councilman in Iruecha who suffered reprisals, requested that the mass grave be located and the people who were shot between August and October 1936 be exhumed. The ASRD believes that there are four people there. The granddaughter of Juan García Gutiérrez continued the work that her father began, who died without being able to find the mortal remains of her father. “Through an exhaustive investigation it has been possible to establish that the grave is located in the place called “El Estrecho del Monte” on the Alcubilla road (in the municipality of Adradas), next to a road that is hardly used today” , explains the spokesman for the Soriana association, Iván Aparicio. None of the victims was subjected to a war trial or imprisoned.

On the other hand, the Memory and Dignity Association has spent more than five years investigating the mass grave found in the neighborhood of Las Casas (Soria), where twenty residents were shot between August 1936 and the end of 1937. The victims above all they belonged to the municipality of Deza and were buried by the residents of Las Casas in an area hitherto respected and exempt from the implantation of new graves. Also found in this grave are a large number of victims from the Guadalajara front, some prisoners in the Santa Clara concentration camp in the capital of Soria.

The spokesman for the ARMH of Palencia, who is on the Historical Memory Technical Council, assures that as soon as a project arrives, the Council is convened.

The Memory Decree that Vox wants to eliminate

The PP of Castilla y León has assumed the discourse of the extreme right: the Minister of the Presidency, former Minister of Agriculture and former President of the Diputación de Valladolid, Jesús Julio Carnero, has promised to draft a Law that makes history an element ” integrating, not dividing”, thus avoiding, in his opinion, its “partisan use”. He also guaranteed that he will promote “a management aimed at closing wounds and not reopening them” and that “the focus will be expanded towards what is known as democratic memory, aimed at promoting the values ​​of democratic reconciliation that inspired the Transition and the Constitution of 78 ” .

The Memory decree —promoted by the former vice president of the Board and PP councilor in the Valladolid City Council, José Antonio de Santiago-Juárez— has as its objective “the recognition of all citizens who suffered persecution or violence during the civil war and the Franco dictatorship and their families, as well as all those citizens and entities that carry out actions aimed at learning about our history and promoting democratic memory”, according to own standard. Basically, it orders the necessary administrative procedures for the exhumation of remains, prepares maps of mass graves, creates an Advisory Council and guarantees institutional and economic support to the associations. In addition, the Board signed an agreement with the University of Burgos to draw up a map of graves with 25,000 public euros.

The Decree also includes “content that allows acquiring knowledge about the truth of the events that occurred during the civil war and the Franco dictatorship” in the ESO and Baccalaureate curricula and content linked to the “defense of human rights, rights and obligations contained in the Constitution and the Statute of Autonomy and democratic values”. The decree that Vox wants to eliminate urged to set up a DNA bank and promote the activity of the Documentary Center of Historical Memory in Salamanca.